Medical center staff attitudes about spanking

Elizabeth T. Gershoff, Sarah A. Font, Catherine A. Taylor, Rebecca H. Foster, Ann Budzak Garza, Denyse Olson-Dorff, Amy Terreros, Monica Nielsen-Parker, Lisa Spector

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Several medical professional organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, recommend that parents avoid hitting children for disciplinary purposes (e.g., spanking) and that medical professionals advise parents to use alternative methods. The extent to which medical professionals continue to endorse spanking is unknown. This study is the first to examine attitudes about spanking among staff throughout medical settings, including non-direct care staff. A total of 2580 staff at a large general medical center and 733 staff at a children's hospital completed an online survey; respondents were roughly divided between staff who provide direct care to patients (e.g., physicians, nurses) and staff who do not (e.g., receptionists, lab technicians). Less than half (44% and 46%) of staff at each medical center agreed that spanking is harmful to children, although almost all (85% and 88%) acknowledged that spanking can lead to injury. Men, staff who report being religious, and staff who held non-direct care positions at the medical center reported stronger endorsement of spanking and perceived their co-workers to be more strongly in favor of spanking. Non-direct care staff were more supportive of spanking compared with direct care staff on every item assessed. All staff underestimated the extent to which their co-workers held negative views of spanking. If medical centers and other medical settings are to lead the charge in informing the community about the harms of spanking, comprehensive staff education about spanking is indicated.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)55-62
Number of pages8
JournalChild Abuse and Neglect
StatePublished - Nov 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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